No, DDT was not ‘erroneously’ banned from the world

July 13, 2014

Fights over genetically-modified organism (GMO) foods take some odd turns.  Some anti-GMO people point to the dangers of DDT in the past as a warning to be super cautious; and some pro-GMO people claim DDT wasn’t all that bad.

Before we hold up the history and science and law of DDT as an example, can we at least get the facts right?  That generally is a failing of the pro-DDT people.

Logo for

Logo for “greener ideal.” An astroturf group?

Like Mischa Popoff at Greener Ideal.

He wrote:

In its first major action in 1972, the United States Environmental Protection Agency made history by banning dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT). It led to a worldwide ban, all based on the public outcry elicited by marine biologist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring.

This marks the beginning of the organic movement in America, and remains a badge of honor for organic activists, in spite of the fact that this ban resulted in the deaths of over 41 million people – roughly the same number of people Chairman Mao murdered in his Great Leap Forward – as public-health authorities lost their only effective means of controlling mosquitos that act as a vector for tropical diseases like malaria and dengue fever.

[There's more, dealing with making the case for GMO foods; feel free to click over and read his opinion.]

I wrote:  There has never been a worldwide ban on DDT. DDT has never been banned in Africa, nor Asia, nor South America.

The U.S. ban on DDT applied only to the U.S. EPA has no jurisdiction outside the U.S. EPA’s order specifically granted DDT manufacturers the right and duty to keep making the stuff in the U.S., for export.

Malaria deaths have fallen most years since the U.S. ban on DDT — there was no malaria in the U.S. of any consequence, then. But malaria deaths have fallen from 4 million annually at peak-DDT-use years of 1958-1963, to fewer than 700,000 annual deaths, today.

Popoff responded.

You are so completely out of touch Ed.

The United States and the World Trade Organization banned DDT, and then threatened to withhold financial aid from any nation that continued to use it. This resulted in an effective world-wide ban on DDT.

It doesn’t matter whether Africa, Asia or South America actually went through the trouble of writing up legislation and passing it into law to ban DDT. After the big boys in Europe and the U.S. of A. banned it, it was banned for all.

And so it came to pass that tens-of-millions of people would die from preventable diseases like malaria and dengue fever.

You should be ashamed of yourself for getting this so wrong, and for misleading people.

Should I have been stung?  His errors of history blunted any sting.  I responded again (but it’s being held; too many links, I suspect):

The US banned DDT for use on crops, out of doors. Indoor Residual Spraying (as for malaria) is legal in the U.S.

The World Trade Organization has no authority to ban any substance, anywhere. Anyone who told you otherwise was pulling your leg.

EPA tried to save the chemical companies who made DDT. The order banning it for use on crops, specifically allowed manufacture in the U.S. to continue, for export. ALL that DDT, several millions of pounds, was exported to Africa and Asia, for use against mosqutoes or any other pest people there wanted to use it against.

There has never been a shortage of DDT in Africa or Asia.

The World Health Organization started using DDT in 1955, and though they had to end their ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria in 1965 (seven years before the U.S. ban) due to DDT abuse by farmers and other businesses, WHO has used DDT constantly since 1955. Mexico used DDT since 1948 — and still does.

When DDT was banned in the U.S., it became cheaper and much more available everywhere else in the world. In fact, one problem now is what to do with all the surplus DDT that was left over. (See the photos, especially — and click through for the full FAO report: http://timpanogos.wordpress.co… ) DDT manufacture in the U.S. continued at least through 1984; today it is made in massive quantities in India; it’s easy to make, and anyone who wants to manufacture it, may.

Though WHO ended the malaria eradication campaign, people kept fighting it. Many fail to understand that DDT was just one leg of the platform used to beat malaria. The idea was to knock down the local mosquito population TEMPORARILY, and then treat and cure all the humans — so when the mosquitoes came roaring back as they always do, there would be no well of malaria disease for the mosquitoes to draw from, to spread it (mosquitoes must get infected with malaria before they can pass it on, and then they have to incubate the parasite for another two weeks). Efforts to treat and cure malaria continued, and from the DDT-peak-use high of 4 million dying each year of malaria, the death toll was reduced to about a million a year by 1999. With the assistance of NGOs like the Gates Foundation, WHO and several nations re-energized the anti-malaria fight in 1999, using Integrated Vector Management, the methods Rachel Carson urged in 1962. Since 1999, malaria deaths have been cut by 45% more, WHO calculates — about 600,000/year. That’s a dramatic difference from 4 million a year. Still too many, but much, much improvement.

And so it came to pass that, mostly without DDT, malaria deaths did NOT INCREASE, but instead DECREASED, year over year, after the U.S. banned DDT use on cotton in Arkansas.

By the way, the head of the U.S. Public Health Service testified to the EPA in 1971 that there was not need to keep DDT around in the U.S. for malaria or any other disease — “no legitimate use” of the stuff for 20 years prior, he said. Norman Borlaug, fresh from his Nobel Prize, testified DDT was important to third-world nations — which was one more factor in EPA’s odd order, against U.S. law, leaving the manufacturing going, for export.

Mischa, there is a lot written on DDT history, at EPA’s site (though much of it was taken down prior to 2008), and at many other sites. You can catch up by starting here, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: http://timpanogos.wordpress.co…

Other good sources include the blog Deltoid, and look for John Quiggin’s book on Zombie Economics.

DDT has never been banned worldwide. The Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty names it one of the “dirty dozen” chemicals, but there is a special addendum to the treaty that keeps it available to fight malaria, for any nation.

I also recommend WHO’s annual “World Malaria Report.”

And if you’re interested in actually helping fight malaria, go to Nothing But Nets, and buy a bednet for a kid. Nets are about double the effectiveness of DDT or other pesticide spraying to prevent malaria.

Get in touch with what’s really going on in the malaria fight, and join in.

He responded again, with more tartness (this comment has since been cast into “moderation,” so it’s not visible; are they thinking of deleting it, or what?):

Ed, Ed, Ed… you’re wallowing in details my friend. And, again, you should be ashamed of yourself.

It’s one thing to clarify, or provide background. But you’re actually implying that people in the Third World never suffered or died in the MILLIONS after authorities lost the ability to control disease-carrying mosquitoes with DDT. You’re lying, plain and simple.

You’re right to point out that DDT is only one part of how to control malaria, but it is the MOST IMPORTANT part because DDT persists on surfaces inside people’s homes, and thereby prevents children from being bitten by mosquitoes in their sleep.

And on that note, you’re wrong (dead wrong) to suggest that mosquito nets are more effective than DDT. “Nothing But Nets” is nothing but a feel-good attempt by Hollywood elites to assuage their guilt for being part of the world-wide campaign to ban DDT.

What’s simpler? Sending tens-of-millions of mosquito nets to people in the Third World? Or simply spraying the inside of a hut with a few ounces of DDT?

DDT was most-certainly and quite effectively banned by organic activists in spite of the fact that the hero of the organic movement, Rachel Carson, never called for a ban on ANY synthetic pesticides. Here: https://www.fcpp.org/files/1/R…
See for yourself.

To which I responded:

Mischa, I provided corrections. You call me a liar?

Your history is wrong.  You’re wrong on the law, wrong on history, wrong on the chemistry, wrong on the medicine.

Are you lying?  I assumed you had made an error.  I offer you links to sources you can check.

Before you falsely malign those who offer you correction, I urge you to get the facts.

With such a rabid attack on a those who correct your history, can we trust what you claim about GMOs, either?  Unlikely.

It’s one thing to imply that people in the Third World have a tough time with malaria.  Quite another to falsely malign scientists, science, and history to claim, falsely, that environmentalists made malaria worse than it was.

Malcolm Gladwell makes it clear in his history of Fred Soper, the super mosquito fighter who created the malaria eradication campaign, that it was DDT advocates who killed the malaria eradication campaign, by overusing DDT where it wasn’t necessary.  In doing that, they forced the bugs to evolve resistance and immunity to DDT.  By the time the malaria fighters got to Central Africa with DDT as their champion tool to knock down mosquitoes, DDT didn’t work as well as they needed to buy time to cure the humans.  (See Gladwell’s piece here, especially sections 5 and 6, remembering Soper was no great fan of Carson: http://gladwell.com/the-mosquito-killer/ .)

So it was DDT advocates who created the trouble, and environmentalists who warned us it would happen — though Rachel Carson didn’t think it would happen until much later (Soper had hoped he’d have until about 1975).  The DDT advocates were wrong, and reckless.

You’re right, Rachel Carson did NOT call for a ban in DDT. She did warn that abuse of DDT would ruin it for fighting disease.

That came to pass. Seven years after her death, the case to ban DDT in the U.S. was firm (nor was there any malaria there to fight).

The ban in the U.S. covered ONLY the U.S.  DDT was NEVER banned in Africa nor Asia.  DDT has been in constant use outside of North America and western  Europe — but also in constantly diminishing effectiveness.

Your criticism of environmentalists is misplaced and wrong.

You falsely malign the critics who were right.  I must assume that you, too, are wrong, and reckless about GMOs.  What else explains your unfair and inaccurate criticism of me and my post?

What are the odds he’s right about GMOs, but just sadly and badly informed on DDT?

You know, I wonder if this guy is related to Roger Bate and Richard Tren.  Is Greener Ideal part of the greenwash movement?

If you’re looking for opposition to genetically-modified organisms in our food supply, I’m not the guy to see.  I started out in biology, remember, and I’ve seen and come to understand that humans have been altering the genomes of creatures for at least 5,000 years.  Otherwise, we’d not be able to plant wheat, we’d not have maize corn, we’d not have beef or chicken, or pork.  The question is whether the modifications are dangerous.  We’ve had some disastrous genetic modification with simple hybridization.  Obviously, the idea of crossing African bees with European honeybees turned out to be a bad idea — but that was not done in a laboratory, but by simple hybridization.  Hip dysplasia in domesticated canines is one more indication of the evils of “natural” genetic modification.

I’m not the guy to look to for evidence that science always screws things up.  Those who argue on the razor’s edge, that scientists screwed up their warnings about things in the past and therefore should not be trusted now if they happen to warn against science modifying genes in foods we eat, won’t find safe haven with me.  They’d get a sympathetic ear for their presentation of facts, though, if they could avoid patently false claims, like the repetition of the various forms of the Rachel-Carson-was-evil-DDT-is-manna-from-heaven hoaxes.  It’s difficult to argue that all scientists are bad when they warn us of dangers, but those scientists who create the dangers are always right and do things only for our benefit.  The story is much more complex than that, and broad-brush, landscape views often cover over the facts, and obscure wise policy paths.  When they claim the poison DDT is “harmless,” one must wonder what else they have completely wrong, and wonder whether they erred with bad research, or have ulterior motives for making false claims.

Popoff didn’t avoid that trap this time.

More:


Does “Twitchy” really just mean “knee jerk?” Correcting the record, deflecting the hoaxes, propaganda and Mau-Mauing about Rachel Carson and DDT

June 1, 2014

Or is there any “knee” in that at all? Maybe it’s just jerk.

You know the drill. Someone says something nice about Rachel Carson’s great work. Someone on the right can’t stand that a scientist gets spoken of well, comes unglued, and spills every lie about Rachel Carson anyone can find, including the big lie, that “millions of kids died unnecessarily because DDT was banned because Rachel Carson lied about DDT, which is really a lot like sugar water to humans and all other living things.”

For the record, each of those claims is false; in reverse order:

  1. DDT is toxic to almost all living things, a long-lived and potent poison (which is why was used to kill harmful insects and other vermin). While bed bugs and mosquitoes have evolved resistance and total immunity to the stuff, few other creatures have.
  2. Rachel Carson told all the truth about DDT that was known at the timeHer accuracy was confirmed by a panel of the nation’s top scientists, who reviewed her work for errors, and federal policy for usefulness and safety.  Since the 1962 publication of Silent Spring, and since Carson’s untimely death from cancer in 1964, we’ve learned that DDT is a carcinogen (though, we hope, a weak one); we’ve learned that DDT is an endocrine disruptor that fouls up sex organs and sexual maturity in more animals than anyone can count, including humans; and we’ve learned that  DDT causes birds to lay eggs with shells so thin the chicks cannot survive, even if the DDT doesn’t kill the chick outright.
  3. Carson didn’t urge a ban on DDT, nor did it happen until eight years after her death.  As I explain below, Carson fought to stop DDT abuses, to preserve DDT’s utility in the fight against disease.  She lost that fight, and as a resul tof DDT abuse by DDT advocates, the World Health Organization (WHO) had to scrap it’s ambitious program to eradicate malaria from the Earth — just as the campaign got to tropical areas of Africa.  DDT was banned for crops in the U.S. (health uses have never been banned here), after two different federal courts ordered EPA to do something because under the existing law they’d be required to ban DDT completely if EPA didn’t act, and after a rather adversary administrative law hearing that lasted nine months, featured testimony and document submissions from more than 30 DDT manufacturers, and compiled a record of DDT’s benefits and harms nearly 10,000 pages long.  It was science that got DDT banned, not Rachel Carson’s great writing.
  4. Every year since EPA banned DDT use on crops in the U.S., worldwide malaria deaths dropped, from peak-DDT use years (circa 1958-1963) levels of approximatly4 million deaths per year, to 2013’s approximately 627,000 deaths.  It’s unfair and grotesquely inaccurate to claim a reduction in deaths of about 84% is, instead, an increase.  Malaria was not close to eradication in 1965 when WHO stopped its campaign on the ground, nor in 1969 when WHO officially abandoned eradication as a goal, nor in 1972 when the U.S. banned DDT use in the U.S., and dedicated all U.S. production of DDT to export, mostly for fighting insects that cause disease.

In short, Rachel Carson is exactly as the history books present her, a very good scientist with a special gift for communicating science issues.

That’s exactly the stuff that galls the hell out of self-proclaimed conservatives, especially those who know they are the smartest person in any room, even an internet chat room with a few million people in it.  Say something good about a scientist, and they know that statement must be false, and what’s more  “. . .  let’s see, there should be something bad about this guy on Google . . . um, yeah . . . yessss! here, Lyndon Larouche’s magazine has some guy I’ve never heard of, but he’s smarter than any librul because he agrees with my bias! Take THAT you scurvy dog!”  And in short order they’ve scooped up all five or six nuts who said bad stuff about Rachel Carson and cross-cited each other, and they’ve copied the links to the three articles on the internet that obscure groups like CEI and AEI and Heritage have paid to raise in the Google searches, and . . .

Done deal.  “Good scientist!  Heh! No one will listen to old Rachel Carson any more!”

Unless good people stand up to the reputation lynch mobs, and stop them.  That’s why I’m telling you, so you’ll have the stuff you need to stand up.  I’m hoping you will stand up.

Shortly after dawn on May 27, Twitchy rose out of the mucky water and lobbed some mud balls at Google and especially Rachel Carson.  Twitchy is an interesting site.  It’s mostly composed of Tweets that support conservative causes and are snarky enough earn a snicker.  In short, there is no fact checking, and biases are preferred — whatever is the imagined conservative bias of the day (oddly enough, never is conservation of soil, water, nor human life ever a conservative-enough issue . . . but I digress).

It’s the nervous twitch of a knee-jerk mind and knee-jerk political mentality.

Twitchy opened up with a straightforward salvo from IowaHawk.

Note that, above, and again below, I note that there were no “millions of malaria victims” of Rachel Carson.  IowaHawk, David Burge,  assumes — without a whit of real information — that DDT was the key to beating malaria, and so after the EPA ban on DDT, malaria must have risen, and so there must have been millions who died unnecessarily. Challenge the guy to put evidence to any part of that chain, and he’ll demur, probably suggest you’re mentally defective, and cast aspersions on what he assumes your political stand to be.  Or, he’ll ignore the challenge in hopes everybody will forget.   And another person will retweet Burge’s disinformative bit of propaganda — no facts, but what sounds like a nasty charge at someone who is presumed to be a liberal.  Burge’s erroneous Tweet had 504 retweets when I wrote this on June 1, great impact.

Eh. Truth wins in a fair fight, Ben Franklin said.  [I'm pretty sure it was Franklin; I'm still sourcing it, and if you have a correction, let me know!]

At length, more people chime in . . . and the level of misinformation in that discourse makes me crazy.

Occasionally I’ll drop in a correction, often a link to contrary information.  Then the abuse is astonishing. This conservative “hate information” machine is ugly.

From the Wellcome Trust malaria page, an explanation for why it's so important to stop bites in the home, at night, and why it's generally not necessary to kill mosquitoes out of doors, in daylight.

From the Wellcome Trust malaria page, an explanation for why it’s so important to stop bites in the home, at night, and why it’s generally not necessary to kill mosquitoes out of doors, in daylight.

Sometimes I unload.  I was on hold for a more than an hour on a couple of phone calls that day.  Some guy working the handle OmaJohn took great exception to something I said — I think his complaint was that thought I knew what I was talking about — and of course, he knew better!  How dare I refer to facts!

Here’s my response.  I think OmaJohn may have gotten the message, or rethought the thing.

But others haven’t.

I list his statements, indented; my responses are not indented.  Links will be added as I can.  All images are added here.

Rachel Carson is still right, still a great scientist and an amazing writer.  DDT is still poisonous, still banned for agricultural use in the U.S., and still not the answer to “how do we beat malaria.”

OmaJohn said:

Always with the crow’s lofty view to try and cherry-pick facts to paint a valid conclusion.

I wouldn’t know, Mr. Corvus. I’ve been looking at DDT professionally for science and policy, and as a hobby, and for law and history courses, for more than 30 years. I’m rather drowning in studies and statistics. A crow might be able to find some information that contradicts Rachel Carson’s writings and EPA’s rulings — but it’s not evident in this data ocean. You see some of those cherries? Do they outweigh the ocean they float in?

I do like how you use blogs to justify your condescension, though. [He complaining that I offered links to answers here, at this blog; how brazenly wrong of me to study an issue!]

I think your denigration of people who actually study a subject is ill-advised behavior. Research papers are printed on paper, just like comic books. It’s up to us to use the information to form cogent ideas about history, science, and make good policy as a result. The blogs I cite are often written by experts in the field — see especially Bug Girl, Tim Lambert and John Quiggen — and they most often provide links to the original sources.

(I gather you didn’t bother to read to see what was actually there. Your loss.)

I don’t like what appears to be your view that your non-informed opinion of something you really know little about is as valid as the work of people who devote their lives to getting the facts right. In the long run, your life depends on their winning that game, and always has.

Without having read a lot, I took a gander at a few of the folks ‘on the other side’ on this, and I was Jack’s complete lack of surprise to see you in here with your head high, throwing around blog references and talking down to people.

Much as you are talking down to me, from your position has head muckraker? I see.

I’m not sure what you mean by “folks on the other side.” If you mean on the other side of Rachel Carson, please note that in 52 years not a single science source she listed has ever been found to be in error, or fading as a result of changing science. Discover Magazine took a look at this issue in 2007, concluding Carson was right, and DDT use should be restricted as it was then and remains. The author wrote this, about claims that Carson erred on damage to birds from DDT:

In fact, Carson may have underestimated the impact of DDT on birds, says Michael Fry, an avian toxicologist and director of the American Bird Conservancy’s pesticides and birds program. She was not aware that DDT—or rather its metabolite, DDE—causes eggshell thinning because the data were not published until the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was eggshell thinning that devastated fish-eating birds and birds of prey, says Fry, and this effect is well documented in a report (pdf) on DDT published in 2002 by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The report, which cites over 1,000 references, also describes how DDT and its breakdown products accumulate in the tissues of animals high up on terrestrial and aquatic food chains—a process that induced reproductive and neurological defects in birds and fish.

Don’t take my word for it. Go read for yourself. Check out PubMed, and read the first 50 citations you find on DDT and birds, the first 20 on DDT and human health, the first 50 on DDT and malaria. Check out the recent good books on the issue — William Souder’s great biography of Carson last year, On a Farther Shore, or Sonia Shah’s wonderful biography of malaria, [The Fever, How malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years].

Get real facts, in other words. Don’t talk down to people who might know what they’re talking about.

You wrote:

DDT use was officially stopped in most countries (perhaps all, I’ve not read anything I’d tout as even remotely conclusive, but I’ve not spent a substantial amount of time on this issue), but quickly (within a decade) was brought back to common use.

You should compost that, but it’s too green to do anything but foul things up indoors, here.

DDT was banned first in Sweden in 1971, then in the U.S. in 1972 — the U.S. ban was on crop use, only. About the only use that actually fell under that ban was cotton crops.

A few other European nations banned DDT.

DDT has never been banned in China, India, nor most of Asia, nor in any nation in Africa. Some African nations stopped using it when it stopped being effective; some African nations stopped using it when DDT runoff killed off food fishes and several thousands starved to death.

The World Health Organization never stopped using DDT, though its dramatic decline in effectiveness, especially in Africa, was key to the collapse and abandonment of WHO’s campaign to eradicate malaria. WHO stopped that campaign in 1965, and officially killed it off at the 1969 WHO meetings. You’ll note that was years before the 1972 ban in the U.S. — so the claims that the U.S. ban prompted a WHO to act is also false just on calendar terms.

If you check with the Wellcome Trust, they have several papers and PowerPoint presentations on the problems with malaria in Mexico, Central and South America — where DDT has been used constantly since 1948, with no ban. Unfortunately, malaria came back. Resistance to DDT in mosquitoes is real, and if malaria is not cured in the humans while the populations are temporarily knocked down, when the mosquitoes come back, they will find those humans with malaria, withdraw some of the parasites from that human, incubate them to the next part of the life cycle, and start a plague within a couple of weeks.

So, no, DDT was never banned in most places. There is a treaty, the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs), which names DDT as one of the dirtiest pollutants in the world. Though every other pollutant on the list is severely restricted or completely banned, DDT has a special carve out (Addenda D, if I recall correctly) which says DDT may be used by any nation to fight any vector-borne disease.

All a nation need do is send a letter to WHO explaining that it plans to use DDT, and when.

And, no, DDT was not brought back in haste to make up for a lack of the stuff.

Not sure where you’re getting your history, but it’s not exactly square with what’s happened.

That’s a pretty huge, expensive policy shift — twice.

Would have been, had it been done as you described. Not so.

There was a lot of pressure to make those changes.

So in the fight on Malaria, I think that scientists and bureaucrats generally agree that DDT plays an
important role, particularly after seriously slowing or stopping use for a substantial amount of time.

Read the POPs treaty — go to the WHO site and you can still get some of the deliberative papers.

For almost all uses, DDT has much better alternatives available today.

Malaria is a special case because humans screwed up the eradication campaign, first, by abusing DDT and creating DDT resistance in the mosquitoes, and second, by completely abandoning most other parts of the program when DDT crapped out.

DDT doesn’t cure malaria. All it does is temporarily knock down the mosquitoes that carry the parasite through part of its life cycle. Better medical care is a very important part of beating the disease, and as in the U.S., improving housing cuts malaria rates dramatically, especially with windows that are screened roughly from sundown to early morning.

DDT is one of 12 chemicals WHO approves for use in Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), in areas where there are outbreaks of the disease. If any one chemical were used alone, it would be ineffective within months, or weeks.

When tobacco farmers in Uganda sued to stop DDT spraying in the early years of the 21st century, WHO issued a press release saying it still believes in DDT. Well, WHO always did. But as of 2010, DDT’s effectiveness is even less, and many nations use only the other 11 chemicals for IRS against malaria.

DDT is still there, if it works, and if it helps; bednets alone are more than double the effectiveness of DDT in preventing malaria. We could probably phase out DDT completely without anyone noticing. DDT is not a panacea. There is no shortage of DDT anywhere today. No one dies for a lack of DDT — though many may die from a lack of bednets or appropriate medical care, problems DDT cannot touch

I believe that Rachel Carson championed her cause very successfully. I believe there was sizeable, if not perfectly tangible, fallout that would only be measurable in human livesand misery thanks to her efforts. And in the end, things were as they should have been, despite her best efforts to force them where they
shouldn’t be.

I see. You don’t know what Rachel Carson said about DDT.

Carson said that DDT was — in 1962 — a pesticide without a clear replacement. She said it was absolutely critical to the then-existing WHO campaign to fight malaria.

And because of that, she urged that use of DDT on crops, or to kill cockroaches, or to kill flies at picnic sites, be stopped — because unless it were stopped, the overuse could not fail to leak into the rest of the ecosystem. Mosquitoes would quickly develop resistance to DDT — that had been a key problem in Greece in 1948, and Carson cites several other places where anti-typhus and anti-malaria campaigns were scuttled when the insects started eating DDT — and once that resistance developed, Carson said, beating malaria would be set back decades at a minimum, and maybe centuries.

She wrote that in 1962.

Fred Soper was the super mosquito fighter in the employ of the Rockefeller Foundation who developed the DDT-based malaria eradication program. He was loaned to WHO to take the campaign worldwide. Soper thought Carson was too tough on DDT in her book, but he had already calculated that DDT resistance would develop by 1975. He had just more than a dozen years to eliminate malaria, he wrote. (This is chronicled in Malcom McDowell’s 2001 profile of Soper in The New Yorker; you can read it at McDowell’s website.)

WHO’s campaign had mopped up pockets of malaria left in temperate zone nations; he had massive successes in sub-tropical nations, and he was poised to strike at the heart of malaria country, in equatorial Africa, in 1965.

The first campaign launched there fizzled completely. When they captured some mosquitoes, they found they were highly resistant to DDT already. Turns out that farmers in Africa wanted spotless fruit, too, and were using tons of DDT to get it.

For the health workers, what that meant was they had no tool at all to knock down mosquitoes even temporarily, to then finish the medical care, housing improvement and education components of the malaria eradication campaign.

It is also true that many of those nations had unstable governments. Soper’s formula required that 80% of the homes in an affected area be treated. That required highly trained, very devoted workers, and a willing population. Those things were difficult to find in nations with unstable governments, or worse, civil war. So there were other complicating factors. But Soper had faced those, and beaten them, behind the Iron Curtain, in Asia, in the Pacific and in South America.

When DDT quit on him, as Carson predicted it would without official action to save its potency, Soper called it quits.

Soper ended his campaign without approaching most of equatorial Africa in 1965. WHO ended the program in 1969.

Carson died in 1964. She would have been saddened that DDT stopped working in the malaria fight so early. She had written about it occurring in some future year — she probably knew of Soper’s calculation in the 1970s.

The public relations smear campaign against Carson, costing the chemical companies $500,000, generated some doubt among the public, but the President’s Science Advisory Council published its report saying Carson was accurate on the science, and calling for immediate action against DDT — in 1963.

It was 7 years after her death that EPA was organized, and 8 years before EPA moved against DDT.

Carson pleaded for a dramatic reduction in unnecessary DDT use — to make spotless apples, for example — in order to save people from malaria.

What did you think she said? What things were back where they should have been — poor kids dying of malaria is as it should be?

We could have done better, had we listened to Rachel Carson in 1962.

You’ve offered nothing that logically refutes those conclusions.

You should have read those blogs.

More:

  • David Burge, Iowahawk, whose post started the Twitchy twitches, several years ago revealed that a young boy his family had been sponsoring in Africa through a private charity, had died from malaria.  Death from malaria is a tragic reality.  Burge urged people to speak out for more DDT, and to donate money to Africa Fighting Malaria.  Readers of my blog may recall that AFM is the astro-turf organization founded by Roger Bate years ago, from all appearance to pay Roger Bate to say nasty things about Rachel Carson.  We could find on their IRS 990 form no evidence that the organization does anything to fight malaria, anywhere.  One might wonder how much anti-malaria activity Roger Bate’s $100,000/year salary would have purchased, in any of the several years he headed the non-help group, or since.  Adding insult to tragedy, Burge noted at his blog that “environmental groups” opposed Indoor Residual Spraying in Africa, and especially the use of DDT.  But it turns out that the chief opposition at that time came from tobacco growers and tobacco organizations — the groups from whom Roger Bate solicited money to start up AFM.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to stick with the facts?
  • If you want to do something, to save a life from malaria, send $10 to Nothing But Nets.  In stark contrast to AFM, NbN sends almost all its money to buy bednets to give away to people in malaria-endemic areas of Africa.  While AFM ridicules nets, they are much more effective at preventing malaria than IRS, especially IRS with DDT alone.  Nets are much cheaper, too.  NbN acts in partnership with the NBA and the United Methodist Church in the United States, and is one of the most upstanding charities anywhere.  They do not say nasty things about Rachel Carson — probably wouldn’t if they thought to, because they are so busy fighting malaria.

Yes, malaria is still a plague; it’s not Rachel Carson’s fault, and your saying so probably kills kids

May 30, 2014

May 27’s Google Doodle honoring Rachel Carson brought out a lot of those people who have been duped by the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers, people who are just sure their own biased views of science and the politics of medical care in the third world are right, and Carson, and the people who study those issues, are not.

So comes “The Federalist,” what appears to me to be a reactionary site, which yesterday got great readership for a story from Bethany Mandel.  Mandel tells a story of a child in Cambodia suffering from malaria.  The suffering is horrible and the child most likely died.  It’s a tragic story of poverty and lack of medical care in the third world.

Erroneously, Mandel up front blames the suffering all on Rachel Carson, in a carp about the Google Doodle.

Here was my quick response between bouts in the dentist’s chair yesterday [links added here]:

[Bethany Mandel wrote:] Using faulty science, Carson’s book argued that DDT could be deadly for birds and, thus, should be banned. Incredibly and tragically, her recommendations were taken at face value and soon the cheap and effective chemical was discontinued, not only in the United States but also abroad. Environmentalists were able to pressure USAID, foreign governments, and companies into using less effective means for their anti-malaria efforts. And so the world saw a rise in malaria deaths.

Don’t be evil?

Start by not telling false tales.

1.  Carson presented a plethora of evidence that DDT kills birds.  This science was solid, and still is.

2.  Carson did not argue DDT should be banned.  She said it was necessary to fight disease, and consequently uses in the wild, requiring broadcast spraying, should be halted immediately.

3.  Scientific evidence against DDT mounted up quickly; under US law, two federal courts determined DDT was illegal under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act; they stayed orders to ban the chemical pending hearings under a new procedure at the new Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA held hearings, adversary proceedings, for nine months. More than 30 DDT manufacturers were party to the hearings, presenting evidence totaling nearly 10,000 pages.  EPA’s administrative law judge ruled that, though DDT was deadly to insects, arachnids, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, the labeled uses proposed in a new label (substituted at the last moment) were legal under FIFRA — indoor use only, and only where public health was concerned.  This labeling would allow DDT to remain on sale, over the counter, with few penalties for anyone who did not follow the label.  EPA took the label requirements, and issued them as a regulation, which would prevent sales for any off-label uses.  Understanding that this would be a severe blow to U.S. DDT makers, EPA ordered U.S. manufacture could continue, for the export markets — fighting mosquitoes and malaria being the largest export use.

This ruling was appealed to federal courts twice; in both cases the courts ruled EPA had ample scientific evidence for its rule.  Under U.S. law, federal agencies may not set rules without supporting evidence.

4.  DDT was banned ONLY for agriculture use in the U.S.  It was banned in a few European nations.

5.  DDT has never been banned in Africa or Asia.

6.  USAID’s policy encouraged other nations to use U.S.-made DDT, consistent with federal policy to allow manufacture for export, for the benefit of U.S. business.

7.  U.S. exports flooded markets with DDT, generally decreasing the price.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

8.  Although WHO had been forced to end its malaria eradication operation in 1965, because DDT abuse had bred mosquitoes resistant to and immune to DDT, and though national and international campaigns against malaria largely languished without adequate government funding, malaria incidence and malaria deaths declined.  Especially after 1972, malaria continued a year-over-year decline with few exceptions.

Note that the WHO campaign ended in 1965 (officially abandoned by WHO officials in 1969), years before the U.S. ban on DDT.

Every statement about DDT in that paragraph of [Mandel's] article, is wrong.

Most important, to the purpose of this essay, malaria did not increase.  Malaria infections decreased, and malaria deaths decreased.

I’m sure there are other parts of the story that are not false in every particular.  But this article tries to make a case against science, against environmental care — and the premise of the case is exactly wrong.  A good conclusion is unlikely to follow.

Mandel was hammered by the full force of the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers.  I wonder how many children will die because people thought, “Hey, all we have to do is kill Rachel Carson to fix malaria,” and so went off searching for a gun and a bullet?

You are not among them, are you?

Update: This guy, a worshipper of the Breitbart, seems to be among those who’d rather rail against a good scientist than lift a finger to save a kid from malaria. If you go there, Dear Reader, be alert that he uses the Joe Stalin method of comment moderation:  Whatever you say, he won’t allow it to be posted.  Feel free to leave comments here, where we practice First Amendment-style ethics on discussion.


World Malaria Day 2014 – How can you help beat the disease?

April 25, 2014

Poster from BioMed Central:

Poster from BioMed Central for World Malaria Day 2014

Poster from BioMed Central for World Malaria Day 2014

Time for a big push to smash the disease’s hold on humanity, maybe eradicate it.  Are you in?

No, DDT is not the answer, not even much of AN answer.

How can you help, right now?

  1. Send $10 to Nothing But Nets. Bednets are dramatically more effective than just insecticides, in preventing malaria infections and saving lives.  Your $10 donation will save at least one life.
  2. Write to your Congressional delegation, and urge them to increase funding to the President’s Malaria Initiative. Malaria does well when people in non-malaria regions turn their backs on the problem.  Malaria declines with constant attention to nation-wide and continent-wide programs to prevent the disease, by diminishing habitat for mosquitoes, curing the disease in humans so mosquitoes have no well of disease to draw from, and preventing mosquitoes from biting humans, with window screens, education on when to stay indoors, and bednets.

More:


Nothing But Nets invites you to join in the fight against malaria, for World Malaria Day

April 3, 2014

I get e-mail from Nothing But Nets, in preparation for World Malaria Day, April 25, 2014:

Compete to Beat Malaria Header with credit

Dear Ed,

As you know, World Malaria Day is April 25, and supporters will be taking action throughout April to help us send 25,000 bed nets to families in Africa.

Are you in?

Our champions are holding basketball tournaments, soccer games, and running in 5K races to get their friends, families, and communities involved in the fight against malaria.Megan Walter Jumpology

Megan Walter, our supporter from Richmond, Virginia, organized a unique event in her hometown. She partnered with her local trampoline park to jump for nets – and they raised $10 for every jumper who participated. The event was a huge success, raising more than $2,000 to send 200 bed nets to families in Africa. What made it even better is that Megan had fun doing it!

There are lots of ways to raise money and send nets while doing what you love. Every $10 you raise helps us purchase and distribute life-saving bed nets with our UN partners.

What sports challenge will you do this April?

Join us in sending nets and saving lives for World Malaria Day! Together, we can defeat malaria.

Sincerely,

Liz Wing
Senior Grassroots Officer, Nothing But Nets

P.S. Whether you run, swim, or play basketball, you can help raise critical funds and save lives. Take a challenge.

 

Compete to Beat Malaria Footer

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You noted, of course:  No call for more DDT.  No slamming of science, scientists, medicine, medical workers, or Rachel Carson and environmental organizations.

This comes from people who fight malaria for a (meager) living, on non-profit basis, without political bias.  In short, these people need help, and consequently have no use for the pro-DDT, anti-Rachel Carson, anti-WHO, anti-science hoaxes.

Please give.  Every $10 can save a life.


World malaria report 2013 shows major progress in fight against malaria, calls for sustained financing (but not DDT)

March 21, 2014

News release from the World Health Organization:

World malaria report 2013 shows major progress in fight against malaria, calls for sustained financing

News release

Cover of World Malaria Report 2013

Cover of World Malaria Report 2013

11 December 2013 | Geneva/Washington DC - Global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000, reducing malaria mortality rates by 45% globally and by 49% in Africa, according to the “World malaria report 2013″ published by WHO.

An expansion of prevention and control measures has been mirrored by a consistent decline in malaria deaths and illness, despite an increase in the global population at risk of malaria between 2000 and 2012. Increased political commitment and expanded funding have helped to reduce incidence of malaria by 29% globally, and by 31% in Africa.

The large majority of the 3.3 million lives saved between 2000 and 2012 were in the 10 countries with the highest malaria burden, and among children aged less than 5 years – the group most affected by the disease. Over the same period, malaria mortality rates in children in Africa were reduced by an estimated 54%.

But more needs to be done.

“This remarkable progress is no cause for complacency: absolute numbers of malaria cases and deaths are not going down as fast as they could,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “The fact that so many people are infected and dying from mosquito bites is one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century.”

In 2012, there were an estimated 207 million cases of malaria (uncertainty interval: 135 – 287 million), which caused approximately 627 000 malaria deaths (uncertainty interval 473 000 – 789 000). An estimated 3.4 billion people continue to be at risk of malaria, mostly in Africa and south-east Asia. Around 80% of malaria cases occur in Africa.

Long way from universal access to prevention and treatment

Malaria prevention suffered a setback after its strong build-up between 2005 and 2010. The new WHO report notes a slowdown in the expansion of interventions to control mosquitoes for the second successive year, particularly in providing access to insecticide-treated bed nets. This has been primarily due to lack of funds to procure bed nets in countries that have ongoing malaria transmission.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of the population with access to an insecticide-treated bed net remained well under 50% in 2013. Only 70 million new bed nets were delivered to malaria-endemic countries in 2012, below the 150 million minimum needed every year to ensure everyone at risk is protected. However, in 2013, about 136 million nets were delivered, and the pipeline for 2014 looks even stronger (approximately 200 million), suggesting that there is real chance for a turnaround.

There was no such setback for malaria diagnostic testing, which has continued to expand in recent years. Between 2010 and 2012, the proportion of people with suspected malaria who received a diagnostic test in the public sector increased from 44% to 64% globally.

Access to WHO-recommended artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) has also increased, with the number of treatment courses delivered to countries rising from 76 million in 2006 to 331 million in 2012.

Despite this progress, millions of people continue to lack access to diagnosis and quality-assured treatment, particularly in countries with weak health systems. The roll-out of preventive therapies – recommended for infants, children under 5 and pregnant women – has also been slow in recent years.

“To win the fight against malaria we must get the means to prevent and treat the disease to every family who needs it,” says Raymond G Chambers, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health MDGs and for Malaria. “Our collective efforts are not only ending the needless suffering of millions, but are helping families thrive and adding billions of dollars to economies that nations can use in other ways.”

Global funding gap

International funding for malaria control increased from less than US$ 100 million in 2000 to almost US$ 2 billion in 2012. Domestic funding stood at around US$ 0.5 billion in the same year, bringing the total international and domestic funding committed to malaria control to US$ 2.5 billion in 2012 – less than half the US$ 5.1 billion needed each year to achieve universal access to interventions.

Without adequate and predictable funding, the progress against malaria is also threatened by emerging parasite resistance to artemisinin, the core component of ACTs, and mosquito resistance to insecticides. Artemisinin resistance has been detected in four countries in south-east Asia, and insecticide resistance has been found in at least 64 countries.

“The remarkable gains against malaria are still fragile,” says Dr Robert Newman, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “In the next 10-15 years, the world will need innovative tools and technologies, as well as new strategic approaches to sustain and accelerate progress.”

WHO is currently developing a global technical strategy for malaria control and elimination for the 2016-2025 period, as well as a global plan to control and eliminate Plasmodium vivax malaria. Prevalent primarily in Asia and South America, P. vivax malaria is less likely than P. falciparum to result in severe malaria or death, but it generally responds more slowly to control efforts. Globally, about 9% of the estimated malaria cases are due to P. vivax, although the proportion outside the African continent is 50%.

“The vote of confidence shown by donors last week at the replenishment conference for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is testimony to the success of global partnership. But we must fill the annual gap of US$ 2.6 billion to achieve universal coverage and prevent malaria deaths,” said Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. “This is our historic opportunity to defeat malaria.”

Notes for editors:

The “World malaria report 2013″ summarizes information received from 102 countries that had on-going malaria transmission during the 2000-2012 period, and other sources, and updates the analyses presented in 2012.

The report contains revised estimates of the number of malaria cases and deaths, which integrate new and updated under-5 mortality estimates produced by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, as well as new data from the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group.


Ugandan court turned back challenge to DDT use

March 19, 2014

One more news story that demonstrates, first, there is no worldwide ban on DDT (not even with the POPs Treaty); and second, environmentalists probably couldn’t stop DDT use if they tried, in nations where malaria still poses a problem.

Uganda's location in Africa; WorldAtlas.com map

Uganda’s location in Africa; WorldAtlas.com map

Not that the DDT-crazy anti-environmentalist critics of Rachel Carson and WHO will notice, but here’s the news, anyway.

From All Africa, from The Observer in Kampala:

Uganda: DDT Petition Dismissed

By Derrick Kiyonga, 18 March 2014

A petition against the use of DDT to control malaria has been dismissed by the Constitutional court.

Judges said the 2009 petition by the Uganda Network on Toxic-Free Malaria Control (UNETMAC) did not raise any matter for interpretation under article 137 of the Constitution. UNETMAC had argued that indoor residual spraying (IRS) and the continued use of the insecticide was hazardous to Uganda’s agricultural exports.

The ministry of Health had earlier approved IRS in Apac and Oyam districts. The judgment by the five-judge panel was delivered by Justice Kenneth Kakuru.

Uganda’s lack of anti-malaria campaigns due to political unrest through much of the last 40 years appears to have contributed to rather severe problems in some provinces today.  At various points over the past decade, Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) won court fights from business groups, trade groups, farmers, affected citizens and odd environmental organizations.  In each case, courts ruled in favor of DDT use.

IRS involves spraying the walls of a home where mosquitoes rest after biting a victim.  Hypothetically, the mosquito then gets a fatal does of insecticide, and will not live long enough to develop the next cycle of malaria parasites to pass back to human victims (the life cycle of the malaria parasite takes about 14 days in a mosquito’s gut before the bug becomes infectious).  DDT is not approved for outdoor use, but only for fighting disease, and only inside dwellings.

DDT and about a dozen other insecticides are used for IRS, in rotation, to avoid pushing the mosquitoes to evolve resistance to any one poison.  Even so, DDT grows less effective, and health workers increasingly avoid using it at all, in favor of other insecticides.

Despite a few hotspots of malaria in Africa, across the continent malaria infections and deaths continue to decline, a decline steady since the early 1970s, accelerated since 2000.

More:

Uganda. AfricaDiscovery.com

Uganda. AfricaDiscovery.com


Querying the Rachel Carson Critics (who turned out the light?)

June 19, 2013

Another question of mine that will probably never see the light of day.  This group has no answer, so why would they allow the question?

I stumbled across a blog-looking page from the American Council on Science and Health, an industry apologist propaganda site, on World Malaria Day, which was April 25.  You may recognize the name of the group as one of the industry-funded sites that constantly attacks Rachel Carson, and often the World Health Organization, with the unscientific and false claims that environmentalists bannned DDT and thereby condemned millions of Africans to die from malaria — which, ASCH claims, could have easily been eradicated with more DDT poisoning of Africa.

On World Malaria Day, ASCH took note, flirted with the facts (that DDT doesn’t work as it once was thought to work), but then backed away from the facts — that the ban on DDT in the U.S. came years AFTER WHO suspended the malaria eradication campaign in Africa when it was discovered DDT couldn’t kill DDT-adapted mosquitoes, already subject to years of abuse of DDT by agriculture and other industries.  ASCH said:

DDT kills mosquitoes, although not as well as it did 60 years ago. But it also irritates them and repels them, so the small amount sprayed inside homes effectively reduces the transmission of the malarial microbe substantially. The banning of DDT, based upon political anti-chemical bureaucrats and “environmentalists” inspired by Carson’s “Silent Spring” who ran our EPA in 1972, helped to impede the malaria control program led by the UN’s WHO.

Impede?  Impossible for a 1972 ban to have been responsible for the earlier suspension of the WHO campaign, not to mention EPA’s ban ended at the U.S. borders.  So I asked:

Screen capture of query to ACSH on how EPA's ban "impeded" WHO's campaign against malaria, ended years earlier.

Screen capture of query to ACSH on how EPA’s ban “impeded” WHO’s campaign against malaria, ended years earlier.

Ed Darrell Reply

June 19, 2013 at 5:16 am

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I would be very interested in just how the 1972 ban on DDT in the U.S. “impeded” the UN’s antimalaria campaign, which stopped using DDT heavily seven years earlier, and was suspended in 1969.

After the ban on U.S. use of DDT, all of U.S. manufacture was dedicated to export to Africa and Asia, which greatly increased DDT supplies available there.

How did this impede?

Want to wager a guess as to whether they’ll ever allow the comment to see the light of day at their site, let alone answer it?

More:

Wall of Shame – Sites that continue to spread the pro-DDT hoax as fact:

DDT is good for me advertisement

“DDT is good for me advertisement” from circa 1955.  Photo image from the Crossett Library Bennington College.  This ad today is thought to be emblematic of the propaganda overkill that led to environmental disasters in much of the U.S. and the world.  DDT cleanups through the Superfund continue to cost American taxpayers millions of dollars annually.


Why it’s important to have accurate history and science on the internet: Don’t lie to kids about DDT

June 6, 2013

Great accomplishment by this kid from Hudson, Massachusetts — but troubling, too.  He’s winning a persuasive speech competition, persuading people against history, law and science, calling for a return of DDT.

Andrew Brandt of Hudson MA, persuasive speaking champion

Andrew Brandt of Hudson holds his winning certificate at the regional speech and debate tournament in New Hampshire in April. He was one of seven to advance to the national competition. (Photo/submitted)

Hudson – Andrew Barndt, 13, from Hudson will be traveling to Tulsa, Okla., in June to join more than 500 students competing in a National Speech and Debate Tournament.

Andrew has qualified to compete in the Persuasive Speech category with the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA). Home-schooled students aged 12 to 18 compete at local and regional tournaments around the country in the winter and spring, culminating in the national tournament in June.

In April, at the regional tournament in Concord, N.H., 27 students competed in the Persuasive Speech category. Andrew’s speech, “DDT: What You Think You Know May Not Be So,” was one of seven chosen to move on the national competition.

According to the NCFCA, “a persuasive speech is an original platform speech that attempts to persuade the audience to adopt a particular point of view or course of action.”

A competitor will give a speech three times in front of different three-judge panels. Judges can be other parents, members of the community or former competitors. The judges rank them on 17 criteria, including: using outside evidence, relating a clear thesis, demonstrating a logical flow of ideas, incorporating proper vocal technique, having good energy level and making eye contact. The top candidates advance to a final round and the winners are decided. Winners receive a trophy and recognition on the NCFCA website.

Andrew will present his winning speech at the national competition held at Oral Roberts University June 18-22. His speech has three parts: debunking the myth of birds’ eggs being harmed due to DDT, disproving the claim that DDT causes cancer in humans, and pointing out that DDT has saved hundred of millions of lives by reducing mosquitoes that carry malaria. He concludes by urging his listeners to repeal the ban on DDT.

“I’m an avid birdwatcher,” Andrew said. “which is how I became familiar with DDT in the first place.”

According to his mother, Ann Barndt, Andrew also competes in debate. “This year he and his brother, Jonathan, 16, partnered together as a team,” she said. “However, their record was not high enough to advance.”

She said the brothers did enjoy preparing for the tournaments, researching various aspects of the this year’s topic, the United Nations. They plan to partner together again next year.

“As for my future, I’m still thinking about how to merge [bird watching] with a sustainable livelihood,” Andrew said.

For more information about the tournament, visit www.ncfca.org.

At the site of the Hudson Community Advocate, I offered what I hope is gentle but persuasive advice to the kid, from one old debater to another:

I commend the young man on his speaking prowess — but he needs a lot of help with his research chops.

1. Birds eggs are harmed by DDT; worse, that’s just one of four ways DDT kills birds. It also poisons chicks outright, in the eggs, poisons the adults (especially migratory birds), and it disrupts the nervous systems of chicks so that, even when they do hatch, they don’t survive.

2. Although it’s a weaker carcinogen, DDT is listed as a “suspected human carcinogen” by the American Cancer Society, CDC and WHO. DDT’s carcinogenic qualities were evidenced long after EPA banned its use because it kills wildlife systems.

3. While DDT played a role in defeating malaria in some countries, it was overused, and it ceased to be so effective as it was. However, malaria rates of infection and total deaths from malaria now are much, much lower than they ever were with DDT. Since malaria deaths are reduced by more than 75%, it’s incorrect math to claim millions died without DDT, wholly apart from the history.

3.1 DDT has never been banned for use against malaria, anywhere. The U.S. ban on DDT, in fact, allowed manufacturing to continue in the U.S., with all DDT dedicated to export. So the U.S. ban, which saved the bald eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon and brown pelican, among others, also multiplied the amount of DDT available to fight malaria in Africa and Asia.

Andrew must be very, very persuasive, to persuade people that DDT, a deadly and mostly useless pollutant, should be revived. Good luck to him in his tournament, and good luck finding better sources next year.

Mr. Brandt must be excused, partly, for his error.  There remains a dedicated and well-funded disinformation assault on the reputation of Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, on the World Health Organization, on malaria fighters, on scientists and “environmentalists,” and this assault largely succeeds in ruthlessly elbowing aside the facts in internet searches, and elsewhere.  Fox News still employs serial-prevaricator Steven Milloy whose assault hoaxes on Carson and science of DDT should be more legendary than they are.  So-called Christian organizations join the political fray, while Christians like the Methodists actually fight malaria with the Nothing But Nets campaign — the workers are too busy to crow, the crowers are too busy to fight malaria.  (One may wonder about this Christian debate group — it caters to the small band of home schoolers.  Their evidence standards aside — standards which would disqualify most of the claims against Rachel Carson and for DDT — one wonders how a speaker would fare in this competition,  who praised Rachel Carson and the EPA for banning DDT, and for keeping the ban.  Accuracy of information is not among the criteria to be used in judging.)

The problem with lying to kids is they often believe the lies.  This isn’t a case of scientific disputes, or conflicting studies or information.  Not a jot nor tittle of Rachel Carson’s research citations has ever been questioned.  What she wrote about DDT in 1962 remains valid today, supported by more than a thousand follow-up studies and contradicted by none.  The destructive nature of DDT on bird populations is not questioned by scientists nor experienced bird watchers.  Where did this well-intentioned kid get led so far astray?

Science communicators?  What’s the solution to this problem?

More:


Resources for World Malaria Day 2013

April 25, 2013

Not a word about condemning Rachel Carson.  No plea to use DDT to try to poison Africa or Asia to health.  That’s a great start.

More:

Mother and son under a protective bednet, the most efficient method to prevent malaria.  Columbia University MVSim image

Mother and son under a protective bednet, the most efficient method to prevent malaria. Columbia University MVSim image


April 25 is World Malaria Day — right, Bill?

April 24, 2013

He’s absolutely right.

English: World Malaria Day Button (english)

English: World Malaria Day Button (english) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are you doing to fight malaria today?

More:


Swearing-in stew: Inauguration week olla podrida – Where are the dung beetles when you need them?

January 25, 2013

In no particular order, nor in any particular ardor, stuff of interest and consequence we should be talking about instead of soaking in Millard Fillmore’s bathtub and admiring the plumbing:

More:


Passing the 200 post mark on Rachel Carson, DDT and Malaria

January 13, 2013

I’m running behind in listing some of the articles, but since Utah Rep. Rob Bishop first alerted me to the stupidity raging on Rachel Carson‘s reputation, DDT‘s dangers and malaria, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub hosted more than 200 articles on the topics.

Palau's stamp honoring Rachel Carson

Postage stamp honoring Rachel Carson, part of the “20th century environmental heroes” set from the South Pacific nation of Palau, PlanetPatriot image

Overwhelmingly, the evidence is that Rachel Carson was right, DDT is still dangerous and needs to be banned, but malaria still declines, even with declining DDT use.

You can look at the list of 200 articles, in reverse chronological order, here.

More:


World Malaria Report 2012: Malaria still declining, but more resources needed fast

January 4, 2013

Significant gains against malaria could be lost because funding for insecticide-treated bednets has dropped, and malaria parasites appear to be developing resistance to the pharmaceuticals used to clear the disease from humans, while insects that transmit the parasites develop resistance to insecticides used to hold their populations down.

Malaria room

African bedroom equipped with LLINs (insecticidal bednets) Photo: YoHandy/Flickr

UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) published its annual report on the fight against malaria last month, December 2012.  Accompanying the many page World Malaria Report 2012  were a press release and a FAQ; the fact-sheet appears unedited below.

Insecticidal bednets have proven to be a major, effective tool in reducing malaria infections.  Careful studies of several different projects produced a consensus that distributing the nets for free works best; people in malaria-infected areas simply cannot afford to pay even for life-saving devices, but they use the devices wisely when they get them.  Nets often get abbreviated in official documents to “LLINs,” an acronym for “long-lasting insecticidal nets.”

Generally, the report is good news.

Dramatic facts emerge from the report:  The “million-a-year” death toll from malaria has been whacked to fewer than 700,000, the lowest level in recorded human history.  More people may die, and soon, if aid does not come to replace worn bednets, distribute new ones, and if the drugs that cure the disease in humans, lose effectiveness.  Many nations where the disease is endemic cannot afford to wage the fight on their own.

Links in the Fact Sheet were added here, and do not come from the original report — except for the link to the WHO site itself.

Logo for World Health Organization

17 December 2012

World Malaria Report 2012

FACT SHEET

Malaria is a preventable and treatable mosquito-borne disease, whose main victims are children under five years of age in Africa.

The World Malaria Report 2012 summarizes data received from 104 malaria-endemic countries and territories for 2011. Ninety-nine of these countries had on-going malaria transmission.

According to the latest WHO estimates, there were about 219 million cases of malaria in 2010 and an estimated 660,000 deaths. Africa is the most affected continent: about 90% of all malaria deaths occur there.

Between 2000 and 2010, malaria mortality rates fell by 26% around the world. In the WHO African Region the decrease was 33%. During this period, an estimated 1.1 million malaria deaths were averted globally, primarily as a result of a scale-up of interventions.

Funding situation

International disbursements for malaria control rose steeply during the past eight years and were estimated to be US$ 1.66 billion in 2011 and US$ 1.84 billion in 2012. National government funding for malaria programmes has also been increasing in recent years, and stood at an estimated US$ 625 million in 2011.

However, the currently available funding for malaria prevention and control is far below the resources required to reach global malaria targets. An estimated US$ 5.1 billion is needed every year between 2011 and 2020 to achieve universal access to malaria interventions. In 2011, only US$ 2.3 billion was available, less than half of what is needed.

Disease burden

Malaria remains inextricably linked with poverty. The highest malaria mortality rates are being seen in countries that have the highest rates of extreme poverty (proportion of population living on less than US$1.25 per day).

International targets for reducing malaria cases and deaths will not be attained unless considerable progress can be made in the 17 most affected countries, which account for an estimated 80% of malaria cases.

  • The six highest burden countries in the WHO African region (in order of estimated number of cases) are: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire. These six countries account for an estimated 103 million (or 47%) of malaria cases.
  • In South East Asia, the second most affected region in the world, India has the highest malaria burden (with an estimated 24 million cases per year), followed by Indonesia and Myanmar.  50 countries are on track to reduce their malaria case incidence rates by 75%, in line with World Health Assembly and Roll Back Malaria targets for 2015. These 50 countries only account for 3% (7 million) of the total estimated malaria cases.

At present, malaria surveillance systems detect only around 10% of the estimated global number of cases.  In 41 countries around the world, it is not possible to make a reliable assessment of malaria trends due to incompleteness or inconsistency of reporting over time.

This year, the World Malaria Report 2012 publishes country-based malaria case and mortality estimates (see Annex 6A). The next update on global and regional burden estimates will be issued in December 2013.

Malaria interventions

To achieve universal access to long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), 780 million people at risk would need to have access to LLINs in sub-Saharan Africa, and approximately 150 million bed nets would need to be delivered each year.

The number of LLINs delivered to endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa dropped from a peak of 145 million in 2010 to an estimated 66 million in 2012. This will not be enough to fully replace the LLINs delivered 3 years earlier, indicating that total bed net coverage will decrease unless there is a massive scale-up in 2013. A decrease in LLIN coverage is likely to lead to major resurgences in the disease.

In 2011, 153 million people were protected by indoor residual spraying (IRS) around the world, or 5% of the total global population at risk. In the WHO African Region, 77 million people, or 11% of the population at risk were protected through IRS in 2011.

The number of rapid diagnostic tests delivered to endemic countries increased dramatically from 88 million in 2010 to 155 million in 2011. This was complemented by a significant improvement in the quality of tests over time.

In 2011, 278 million courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) were procured by the public and private sectors in endemic countries – up from 182 million in 2010, and just 11 million in 2005. ACTs are recommended as the first-line treatment for malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly Plasmodium species that infects humans. This increase was largely driven by the scale-up of subsidized ACTs in the private sector through the AMFm initiative, managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Drug and insecticide resistance

Antimalarial drug resistance is a major concern for the global effort to control malaria. P. falciparum resistance to artemisinins has been detected in four countries in South East Asia: in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. There is an urgent need to expand containment efforts in affected countries. For now, ACTs remain highly effective in almost all settings, so long as the partner drug in the combination is locally effective.

Mosquito resistance to at least one insecticide used for malaria control has been identified in 64 countries around the world. In May 2012, WHO and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership released the Global Plan for Insecticide Resistance Management in malaria vectors, a five-pillar strategy for managing the threat of insecticide resistance.

www.who.int/malaria

You were perceptive.  You noted there is no call from malaria fighters for more DDT, nor for any change in DDT policy.  This is a report from medical personnel, from public health experts, the real malaria fighters.  It’s not a political screed.

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Split in environmental movement? No, facts still matter

December 21, 2012

Chris Clarke took on Keith Kloor at Pharyngula.  Kloor fell victim to the idea that there is a great split between old “tree-hugger” environmentalists and a newer breed of greens who are willing to work with business and industry to get actual solutions.  Kloor seems to be cheering those he calls “modernists.”

It’s not a new idea, nor is a particularly useful one.  There has long been a minor rift between people who believe it’s impossible to cut deals with polluters, and those who get into the trenches to hammer out or shoot out deals that result in practical legislation.  The group who called for a legislated end to personal automobiles, for example, are still around — but they applaud those who forged the Clean Air Act that drove the invention and development of catalytic converters and cleaned up urban air, even though it left America awash in cars.

Clarke wrote:

Kloor summarizes the better, smarter, more stylish and less embarrassing side’s position thusly:

Modernist greens don’t dispute the ecological tumult associated with the Anthropocene. But this is the world as it is, they say, so we might as well reconcile the needs of people with the needs of nature. To this end, [controversial environmentalist Peter] Kareiva advises conservationists to craft “a new vision of a planet in which nature—forests, wetlands, diverse species, and other ancient ecosystems—exists amid a wide variety of modern, human landscapes.”

That doesn’t seem all that unreasonable on its face, if for no other reason that that it’s currently the best case scenario. You would be extremely hard-pressed to find even the most wilderness-worshipping enviro who disagreed.

In fact, were I to have to rebut Kloor’s whole piece in one sentence, it would be this:  the U.S. non-profit The Wilderness Society, founded by the authors of the Wilderness Act of 1964, is aggressively pushing for industrial development of solar and wind energy generating capacity on intact habitat on the public lands of the American west.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Wilder...

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Wilderness Act in 1964 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I replied at Pharyngula, noting that the rift Kloor talks about could be exemplified by Rachel Carson and DDT and “modernists” who don’t object to the use of DDT in Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) to fight malaria — except, those are the same people, working on the same issue.  In short, I sorta agree with Clarke.  There’s no rift, only a lot of misunderstanding.

Heck, if I’m going to that trouble, I may as well capture it here for my indexing purposes.  Here’s my response — I may add links in the body that don’t appear at Pharyngula.

Interesting view of a bit of an inside-baseball (environmental protection politics) issue, but not particularly incisive. Other than its being published at Slate, should we worry about Kloor’s views much?

The piece completely ignores that the views of those he labels “modernists” and “pragmatists” come wholly out of the research demanded by those he ignores in the old movement, whom he unfairly ridicules as hippies.

For example: It’s politically correct (in some circles) today to say (1) Rachel Carson was too strident, and (2) probably wrong about DDT “since it’s (3) not carcinogenic, we now know.” Malaria fighters around the world (4) now have DDT in their arsenal again, this view holds, because (5) pragmatists in the environmental movement finally listened. “(6) Sorry about those ‘unnecessary’ malaria deaths,” some claim the pragmatists would say.

But that view is founded on, grown in, and spreads, historical, legal and scientific error. And the progress made was based on understanding the science, history and law accurately. It’s not that pragmatists finally succeeded where the tree-huggers failed. It’s that the tree-huggers hung in there for 50 years and the world has come around to recognizing good effects, even if it can’t or won’t acknowledge the true heroes who got the work done.

Carson was dead right about DDT. She urged the use of Integrated Vector (Pest) Management in place of DDT, but she forecasted (in 1962!) that unless DDT use were severely curtailed, it would cease to be useful to fight malaria and other diseases (because, as Carson understood, evolution works, and the bugs evolve defenses to DDT). By 1965, WHO had to end its ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria because, as Carson predicted, mosquitoes in Africa turned up resistant and immune to DDT because of abuse and overuse of the stuff in other applications. Notice, 1965 was seven years BEFORE the U.S. banned DDT use on agricultural crops, and 19 years before the last U.S. DDT manufacturer scurrilously fled to bankruptcy protection to avoid penalties under Al Gore’s SuperFund cleanup bill.

Carson did not claim DDT causes cancer. So the basis of the argument that DDT is “safe for human use” because it doesn’t cause cancer, is an historical non-starter. Research since Carson’s death shows that DDT does indeed cause cancer, though we think its a weak carcinogen in humans. DDT was banned because it’s a deadly poison (else it wouldn’t work!), and it kills for a long time, and it is nonspecific — so it will kill an entire ecosystem before it can eradicate some insect pests. It was in 1971, and it still is.

Photo taken at Rachel Carson's 100th Birthday ...

Photo taken at Rachel Carson’s 100th Birthday celebration at Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Carson did note that DDT kills birds, in vitro, by incapacitating chicks to thrive, by outright poisoning insect-eating and predatory birds (or anything near the top of the trophic levels) and through a then-mysterious scrambling of reproductive abilities. About ten years after her death, it was discovered DDT also rendered female fowl unable to make competent eggshells, and that provided a fifth path for death for birds.

Much of the research Carson cited formed the foundation for the science-based regulation EPA came up with in late 1971 that ended in the ban on DDT in the U.S. None of those studies has ever been seriously challenged by any later research. In fact, when Discover Magazine looked at the issue of DDT and birds and malaria in 2007, they found more than a thousand peer-review follow-up studies on DDT confirming Carson’s writings.

Over the past decade we’ve seen a few bird species come off of the Endangered Species List. Recovery of at least four top predators should be credited squarely to the ban on crop use of DDT in the U.S, brown pelicans, peregrine falcons, osprey, and bald eagles. 40 years of non-use, coupled with habitat protection and captive breeding programs, brought these birds back. (Five years ago I sat on the lawn of Mt. Vernon and watched a bald eagle cross the Potomac to a snag 100 yards from George Washington’s porch; the director told me they’d been watching several eagles there for a couple of years. 15 years earlier, one nesting pair existed in the whole Potomac region, at a secret site; now tourists are told where to go see them. A friend wrote today he saw a bald eagle in Ft. Worth, Texas. The gains from the DDT ban are real.)

Meanwhile, in Africa and Asia, the war on malaria continued. After the DDT advocates screwed up the malaria eradication program of WHO in the 1960s, progress against malaria continued, but slowed; in the late 1980s malaria flared up in some regions where the malaria parasites themselves had developed resistance to the most commonly-used pharmaceuticals (as Darwin would have predicted, as Carson would have predicted). After struggling to keep malaria from exploding, about 1999 malaria fighters latched on to Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which couples occasional spraying of homes and other residences, even with DDT (which was never banned in Africa or Asia) — but calls for spraying only when it is very effective, and requires that no one pesticide be used to the point that it drives mosquitoes to evolve resistance, and pushes all other means to prevent disease-spreading bug bites.

Largely without DDT (though DDT is not banned), malaria infections fell from peak DDT-use years of 1959 and 1960, from 500 million infections per year, to fewer than 250 million infections today — that’s a decrease of 50%. Phenomenal when we consider the population of the world has doubled in the same time. Deaths dropped from 4 million annually in those peak-DDT-use years to fewer than 800,000 per year today — a decrease of more than 75%. Progress continues, with IPM; bednets now do better, and more cheaply, what DDT used to do but largely cannot anymore — stop the bites. Better medicines, and better educated health care workers, clean up the disease among humans so mosquitoes can’t find a well of infection to draw from.

Notice that at no point was progress made contrary to the “tree-hugger” model, but instead was made at every point because of the tree-hugger model. No compromises enabled the recovery of the bald eagle, but strict enforcement of the environmental laws. No compromises with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring helped beat malaria, but finally applying what Rachel Carson actually wrote.

Now along comes Kloor to say that Carson and her de facto acolytes block progress, and people who argue for compromise instead have the lighted path to the future?

Let’s review:

  1. Carson was not too strident; in fact the President’s Science Advisory Committee’s report, “Use of Pesticides,” in 1963 called for more immediate and more draconian action than Carson did.
  2. Carson was not wrong about DDT; it is still a deadly poison, and it still kills ecosystems; however, as Carson urged, careful use can provide benefits in a few cases.
  3. Human carcinogenicity was not an issue in DDT’s being banned in the U.S. in 1972, and it’s being only a weak carcinogen now does not rescue DDT from the scientifically-justified ban; we now know DDT is even more insidious, since it acts as an endocrine disruptor in nature, scrambling reproductive organs of fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, and probably birds, too.
  4. Malaria fighters always had DDT in their arsenal; no reason to use DDT where it won’t work, nor where it’s harms outweigh its benefits (as the National Academy of Sciences said, in 1970, in a call to get rid of the stuff).
  5. If there were any pragmatists in this story, they abandoned malaria-affected areas of the world years ago and have not returned; they did nothing to help save the birds; to claim they listened is to suggest they did something and can do more. Not sure that’s a case that can be made.
  6. There were not deaths to malaria “unnecessary” due to a ban on DDT which never occurred in Africa or Asia, while DDT was plentiful and cheap to anyone who wanted to use it (still pretty much the case today). Let’s repeat that:  DDT has never been banned in Africa or Asia.  We can’t claim great disease exacerbation when the disease actually was abated so greatly over the period of time in discussion — can’t make that claim and also claim to be honest.

It was the hard-core, wilderness-loving, science-following environmentalists who were responsible for every lick of progress on that issue.

Is DDT unique as an issue? I don’t think so. And I think a fair history of the environmental movement from 1975 to today would point out that it was hard-core, save-the-planet-because-it’s-the-only-home-humans-have types who pulled things out. Do we have great canyons to hike in Colorado and Utah? Yeah, but keeping Exxon from digging up huge portions of those states for a now-failed oil-shale extraction scheme should get some of the credit. Is there wildlife in cities? Sure, but only because we had wilderness areas to protect those species in their darkest hours, and we may need those places again. Do we have other needs for wilderness? Only if we need clean air, clean water, huge sinks for CO2 emissions, and places to dream about so we stay sane and focused, and American (Frederick Jackson Turner was correct enough — Americans are more noble, more creative, wiser and more productive, if we have a frontier and a wild).

Isn’t it required that we compromise on standards to get energy independence, and economic prosperity? Don’t look now, but oil and natural gas production, and exploration, are at highs, under our “tough environmental laws.” If we look around the world, we see that future prosperity is best protected by such laws, even if they sometimes seem to slow some industrial process or other.

New generation of conservationist? Possible only because of the old generation, the Pinchots, Roosevelts (esp. the two presidents), the Lincolns and Grants, the Muirs, the Leopolds, the Bob Marshalls, the Udalls, the Morans, the Douglases (Marjory Stoneman and Justice William, both), the Rockefellers, the Nelsons, the Muskies, the Gores, the Powells, and thousands of others who were then ridiculed for being unpragmatic, and whose methods often required that they not “compromise.” We can’t talk about protecting wilderness today unless the Sierra Club was there to actually do it, earlier. We can’t talk about private efforts, or public-private partnerships, without standing on the ground already protected by the Nature Conservancy. We can’t talk about saving the birds without relying on the history of the Audubon Society. We can’t talk sensibly about protecting humans from cancer or poisons without touching every rhetorical string Rachel Carson plucked.

Get the science right. Keep your history accurate. Read the fine print on the law, and on the pesticide label. Conservation isn’t for the birds, bees, bears, trout and flowers — it’s for humans. That’s news to Kloor? Maybe that’s why his view is skewed.

Progress is made by unreasonable and stubborn people sometimes? No, Martin Luther King, Jr., said — those are the only people who make progress.

We aren’t going to build a future conservation movement by giving away what has been conserved to now.

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